Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sees newly-acquired receiver Amari Cooper as a weapon who will not only make life easier for quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, but for himself as a play-caller.
“To me, you can’t have enough playmakers on your team,” Linehan said. “Feel like he’s a guy that can do some of the stuff you want to do on the outside part of the field. He’s been versatile in his career. He doesn’t just play one position. He can move around. He’s got a nice history of being a big-time playmaker, all the way from [his] high school days. This guy has a knack of making the big play. I think he can add that to our offense.”
It’s much needed for a Cowboys offense that ranks 29th in the league in passing and lacked a playmaker on the outside who could make opponents pay for concentrating so much on stopping Elliott on the ground.
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That was certainly the case in last Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins. While Prescott passed for a season-high 273 yards, and receivers Michael Gallup and Allen Hurns had season-best games to go along with continued solid production from Cole Beasley on the inside, Elliott rushed just 15 times for 33 yards.
“Anytime they’ve got to defend both parts of your offense, it certainly helps the other side,” Linehan said. “If we lean heavy on our run game and our pass game in a couple of games hasn’t been productive enough in my opinion. Last week was a change. I think that trend is good. To be able to add another weapon to our ability to have explosive capability on offense is going to help both sides of our offense. You add firepower to your offense in proven-type guys like this, it gives you some options. Even if it’s just the threat of the option, it might help the other part of your offense.”
Linehan said the impact should be immediate because Cooper already has a reputation of being a playmaker in this league with 1,000 yards receiving and trips to the Pro Bowl in each his first two years in the league.
“That certainly helps. I know the proven guys that I’ve been with over the years, whether Dez or some guys at some other places,” he said. “They get attention because they know what they’re capable of doing.”
Coach Jason Garrett agrees. He says teams know Cooper’s abilities as do the Cowboys, which was the genesis behind the move.
“I think he’s that kind of a player,” Garrett said. “He’s demonstrated that early on within his career with is production. Whether that means they’re going to alter what they do defensively, who knows that? But the more weapons you have the more able you are to attack the defense. And that’s certainly the objective of this move.”
And if they don’t give him attention, the Cowboys plan to make them pay.
“You’ve got to not hesitate. It’s got to be a priority target for you when they do that,” Linehan said.
The prospects of adding Cooper to the mix is exciting and challenging for him as a play-caller.
“Just gives us another option on the outside part of the field that adds to what I think is a passing game that’s trending in a good way,” Linehan said. “We feel like Beasley’s playing as good as I’ve seen him, and to see Michael Gallup be an improving player, a young player. And then you add this proven playmaker that can become your priority outside receiver. I think it gives us the ability when people are lining up to take away our run game, which we’ll still get I would assume. A guy outside that you feel like you can count on. It’s going to be fun and challenging. We’ve got to get up to speed with our timing and things like that. It will be fun to have that opportunity.”
The Cowboys are not concerned about throwing another receiver into the mix for Prescott, who has yet to gain chemistry with many of the offseason additions following the departure of Dez Bryant.
They know Prescott is adaptable and will work overtime with Cooper and vice versa.
“He’s been good. Started as a rookie with no time on task with the entire offense until the week before our first game,” Linehan said. “He’s pretty adaptable. I expect him to spend the time he needs to spend, plus. Because that’s just who he is. From what I’ve seen from adding Amari to this mix, he’s a guy that will spend an extraordinary amount of time to get ready. I think that will all be in our favor.”